Hawke's Bay captain Michael Coman will wake up with a nasty Ranfurly Shield hangover today, but it won't be anything to do with a week of mass celebrations.
Coman will spend the coming days recovering from a concussion that saw him leave the field at halftime and hand the captaincy reins to veteran openside Karl Lowe during the Magpies' 27-24 loss to Counties Manukau.
The rest of the Hawke's Bay side, and those in the 18,000 strong crowd that watched, will be suffering from severe pangs of regret. The Magpies took 44 years to get the famous Log o' Wood back, and just 10 nightmarish minutes to let it go again.
"I think it was just a little bit of everything," assistant coach Danny Lee said as he stood outside an eerily quiet dressing room.
"It's been a massive week for everyone and though we tried to shelter the boys away from the hype around it was pretty hard to when you are doing parades and it's all over the media and there are stories every day.
"I'm pretty gutted to only hold it for six days and the Hawke's Bay public aren't going to be too happy either, but I don't think they will be as disappointed as we are as a team."
Hawke's Bay led 16-14 at halftime after a brilliant Gillies Kaka try and the Shield seemed sure to remain in the Bay for another week when No 8 Mark Atkins showed a turn of pace to beat a weak Baden Kerr tackle at 54 minutes.
First-five Ihaia West extended the lead to 24-17 with his fourth penalty, to cap what had been a decent day running the cutter for the young pivot.
But then the wheels fell off.
Counties surged. Wing Frank Halai levelled someone on the far side and Sherwin Stowers brushed a few defenders to spark the comeback.
Lee said the tactic had been to kick for territory, but was overdone in the first half when they wasted good possession.
And he wondered if the emotions of the week had told in the final 1o minutes when it was Counties who were supposed to flag after their midweek match.
"It's pretty tough at the moment, it's pretty fresh. You get a crowd along here, 18,000 or whatever it was, and let the province down by having a performance like that and losing the game," Lee said.
"It's one of those things, but 44 years is a long time and the hype around the province in the last week is very memorable."
Lee had a piece of advice for Counties as they look to defend the Shield against Taranaki.
"Just relax into the game. You could see with the penalties early and the mistakes that developed were around us being a little too hyped."
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